Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Meet Author Laura Schaefer

It is my pleasure to introduce Laura Schaefer, author of The Teashop Girls and the newly released sequel, The Secret Ingredient.

For readers who don't know you please tell us a little about yourself.

I live in Madison, Wisconsin and I began writing full-time after I graduated from college here in 2001. When I was in school, I wrote book reviews for my school paper and had the chance to interview several authors. It was a world I knew I wanted to join. I initially thought I might be an editor, but it turned out that freelance writing suited me, so I stuck with it.

As I found my niche, I fell in love with it. I began as a curriculum writer, which means I wrote educational content such as small lessons, informational pieces for reading comprehension practice, and test questions. When I turned to fiction, it was a natural fit for me to write for middle-grade and young adult readers. I've always been a huge reader myself and the books I read when I was ten or twelve years old are the ones that really stuck with me. It's an honor to write for young readers.

Why did you decide to use blogging and social networking to create awareness about you and your books?

I think social networking is a great way for authors to connect with readers. I've really embraced Twitter and Facebook in the last few years, so when it came time to write a sequel to The Teashop Girls, it made sense to me to incorporate that part of my life into The Secret Ingredient. Annie starts a food blog, which isn't necessarily an easy thing to do. I've only blogged intermittently in the last three years, so I have a lot of respect for anyone who can keep a quality blog going.

Using the Internet in all its glory to connect with readers is such a natural fit for most authors. As a group, we tend to be a bit introverted, so it's nice to have an option to reach out to people that doesn't involve getting on stage.

How much of Annie's personality and life experiences are biographical?

Her personality is more biographical than her life experiences, as I've never worked in a tea shop myself. We do share some things: great friends, an entrepreneurial spirit, and concern for the world around us. Annie is thoughtful and genuine, and I'd like to think I am too. :-) One thing we don't share is hair problems. Annie always fights with her big red curls, and my hair doesn't really give me trouble. It's usually up in a bun and not on my mind at all. That's the beauty of not having to leave the house for work, I suppose!

Did you create and tryout the recipes for the scones in The Secret Ingredient? What is your favorite scone?  What is your favorite tea?

I did! My favorite scone in the book is the last recipe, which involves apples and toffee (but don't flip ahead...they're all good!). My tea tastes have really been evolving lately, so it's harder and harder to pick a favorite. For a while, it was English Breakfast tea, which is delicious and classic. Then I really loved this caramel rooibos. Next up, I went through a matcha phase where I made a lot of frappes with blended milk, ice, matcha, and sugar (the recipe is in the new book). Now I'm drinking Pu'erh, which is an earthy tea from China that is good for heart health. I recommend all of these.

I think the Steeping Leaf scone blog being real is brilliant.  How did you come up with that idea?

Actually, the blog address given in the book just directs back to my website in real life. ;-) But I did have a lot of fun writing the blog entries in the book. I might have Annie or Genna "guest blog" on one of these days. Perhaps they could answer questions from readers. That would be fun.

What are you reading now?

I just finished an advance review copy of Lauren Oliver's lovely middle grade novel LIESL & PO and I'm starting CLEOPATRA CONFESSES by Carolyn Meyer next.

Who was your favorite author as a tween?

As a young tween, I loved The Babysitters Club books and the Anastasia Krupnik books by Lois Lowry. As for stand-alone titles, I adored A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (I've been meaning to reread that, in fact).

Have you thought about writing in another genre and if yes which one?

Yes. It's fun to try new things. I'm working on a book now for older teen readers, and I'm also working on some non-fiction titles for 8-12 year-olds. They're a series of travel guidebooks for kids called Planet Explorers. I just finished a guide to Chicago and one to Walt Disney fun to work on! They will exist as ebooks only.

Will we see Annie, her grandmother and friends in another book?

I think so! I'm not working on a third book just yet, but it would be great fun to see where another story could take them. :-)

Wow!  Thank you so much for visiting my blog Laura :)

If you'd like to purchase either book on click on the title here : The Teashop Girls or The Secret Ingredient.  

If you'd like to read my reviews of the books you can click here for The TeaShop Girls and click here for The Secret Ingredient.

Here's the link for  The Teashop Girls website for lots more fun!

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Secret Ingredient by Laura Schaefer

     Warning: reading this book will make you crave tea and scones.  Not that that is a bad thing!  Annie and her friends are back after helping to save The Steeping Leaf teashop in The Teashop Girls reviewed here.  In The Secret Ingredient Annie is attempting to create an original scone recipe and at the same time publish a food blog while gathering a following to win an entry into a contest.  Annie shares her recipes with us her along with her blog posts.  Annie is also dealing with understanding the love/hate relationship with Zach especially after he kisses her.
      Middle grade girls will relate to Annie and the secondary characters. They will enjoy her friends and how they help her and support her.  They'll laugh at the awkwardness between her and Zach.  They'll love the relationship between Annie and her grandmother which is so loving and caring.   They may be inspired to start a blog or even to bake scones and try new teas.  
     The illustrations are charming and will add to the desire to taste a scone or drink chai latte (artwork was not final).  While not absolutely necessary to read The Teashop Girls first I would suggest to do so.  Recommended for fans of that book, contemporary fiction and friendship stories and LITTLE BLOG ON THE PRAIRIE by Cathleen Davitt Bell.  Read as an ebook arc courtesy of Simon and Schuster.  The Secret Ingredient will be available June 28, 2011 and on June 29 the author, Laura Schaefer will be stopping by this blog so come on back!
**Note:Received the book and read some of it again.  This time got to see the final illustrations and photos added to the blog posts and recipes.  Yummy.  And guess what? Used the vegetable sushi recipe for lunch :) Next up?  One of those tea frappes.

Troublemaker by Andrew Clements

     Clay is a troublemaker and a frequent visitor to the principal's office.  His file is so thick with incident reports that the school secretary calls it her masterpiece.  However, when Clay's brother Mitch is released from jail after serving a month for contempt of court, Mitch sets out to change Clay's ways.  While it's not easy giving up throwing food at lunch, Halloween and hanging with his troublemaker friends Clay learns to trust his brother's words of wisdom.
     Andrew Clements has written another terrific story for middle graders.  Readers will get a glimpse as to why someone might bully and make fun of others.  The secondary characters are well drawn and Mrs. Ormin the school secretary is my favorite.  Mitch is believable as the reformed troublemaker older brother and we can see why Clay idolized him both before and after his jail sentence.  The writing is smooth and the illustrations (although not final) work well with the story.  Recommended for 3-6 graders.  Read as an ebook arc courtesy of Simon & Schuster.  Troublemaker will be available on July 26, 2011.